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Glutamine is one of the 20 naturally occurring amino acids in dietary protein, specifically it is a conditionally essential amino acid (being elevated to essential during periods of disease and muscle wasting typical of physical trauma). It is sold as an isolated amino acids as well as being found in high levels in dietary meats and eggs. It is found in very high levels in both whey and casein protein.
Glutamine is a very effective intestinal and immune system health compound, as these cells use glutamine as the preferred fuel source rather than glucose.
It is generally touted as a Muscle Builder, but has not been proven to enhance muscle building in healthy individuals; only those suffering from physical trauma such as burns or muscular wounds (knife wounds) or in disease states in which muscle wasting occurs, such as AIDS. In these individuals, however, glutamine is effective at building muscle and alleviating a decrease in muscle mass typical of the ailment.
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There is no real suggestion as to the optimal dose of glutamine supplementation as it can be divided into many different fates into the body.
Benefit has been seen with as little as 5g a day in supplemental form, and doses up to 25g have been repeatedly well tolerated although an upper limit of 14g a day is recommended as the Observed Safety Limit. Doses should not exceed 0.75g/kg bodyweight due to increased ammonia levels in vivo and no real benefit from such a high dose.
The above dosages are in supplemental form, and are in addition to glutamine from food intake.
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The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies (excluding animal/petri-dish studies) to tell you what effect Glutamine has in your body, and how strong these effects are.
|Grade||Level of Evidence|
|A||Robust research conducted with repeated double blind clinical trials|
|B||Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled|
|C||Single double blind study or multiple cohort studies|
|D||Uncontrolled or observational studies only|
|Level of Evidence ||Effect||Change||Magnitude of Effect Size ||Scientific Consensus||Comments|
Differential effects on ammonia, with decreases being present when glutamine is taken as part of a daily supplement routine and measured during prolonged exercise with... show
No significant influence on inflammatory cytokines except perhaps IL-6 seen with glutamine supplementation
No significant alterations in testosterone noted
No significant alterations in cortisol noted
See 2 studies
An increase in insulin occurs following ingestion of glutamine supplementation, which is thought to be secondary to the increase in blood glucose seen with glutamine ingestion
No significant alterations in C-Reactive Protein levels
See 2 studies
An increase in blood glucose may occur from direct conversion of glutamine into glucose following oral ingestion
|C||Exercise Capacity in COPD|
No significant interaction with exercise capacity in persons with cardiovascular ailment
No significant influence on immunity per se
An increase in serum creatinine has been noted, but thought to be due to a reduction in glomerular filtration rate acutely rather than due to alterations in muscle damage
An increase in urea has been noted with glutamine supplementation
|C||Glomerular Filtration Rate|
A decrease has been noted in elderly persons given 0.5g/kg glutamine to a level where although the authors were not concerned but some serum biomarkers were adversely affected;... show
|C||White Blood Cell Count|
In safety testing, no significant alterations in white blood cell count is noted.
In safety testing, there does not appear to be an adverse effect of glutamine supplementation on liver enzymes in serum
No significant alterations in hematocrit noted
|C||Symptoms of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy|
Glutamine has failed to be of benefit to symptoms associated with Duchenne muscle dystrophy
An increase in serum urate has been noted in the range of 10-20% acutely, but attenuates with time and is likely not a concern within a week. Practical significance of... show
Serum creatinine (increased during exercise and thought to be indicative of muscle damage) does not appear to be significantly altered with glutamine supplementation
|D||Symptoms of Crohn's Disease|
A possible reduction of symptoms associated with Crohn's disease may occur, but this appears to be unreliable
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Average dietary intake of glutamine, according to the Nurse's Study of 70,356 women, is around 6.85+/-2.19g glutamine daily.
It should be noted that the above percentages are based on total protein content, and not total caloric content nor weight. If assessed by weight, beef protein has 1.23g of glutamine per 100g product whereas skim milk has 0.28g glutamine per 100g product.
It is also noted that some of these levels of glutamine may be underreported, and subsequently levels of glutamate higher than expected; this is due to one of the historically used methods of amino acid analysis, hydrolysis, inducing conversion of glutamine to glutamate or pyroglutamic acid. The sequencing study cited above demonstrates the higher range of values, and it's methods are described here. Comparing results between conventional methods and gene sequencing can yield differences of up to 4% in total amino acids (influence on glutamine would be dependent on glutamine content of food).
Glutamine analysis hasn't been too accurate in the past for exact numbers (due to degradation and conversion of glutamine) but the general trend of meat and dairy being the best dietary sources of glutamine exists. Interestingly, some plant sources have a higher glutamine content on a percentage basis, but they are not the best sources of dietary glutamine due to the low overall amount of protein from plant sources relative to meat and dairy sources
Glutamine is one of the conditionally essential amino acids, with the standard amino acid backbone and a 3-carbon side-chain with a ketone group on the furthest carbon from the amine group and culminating with a nitrogen on the end of the side-chain.
Glutamine is not highly soluble in an aqueous environment, and thus when used in intravenous infusion it tends to be bound to the amino acid Alanine as Alanyl-glutamine.
It is the most abundant amino acid in human tissue (mostly muscle tissue) and plasma. It has various biological roles including acting as a nitrogen transport between tissues alongside Alanine, acting as a precursor for the antioxidant glutathione, acting as a precursor for nucleotides, regulating acid/base metabolism and being involved as a substrate in gluconeogenesis. It can also stimulate production of L-citrulline and L-glycine via acting as substrate.
Plasma levels in healthy humans are typically 500-750umol/L after a morning fast. Muscle concentrations are typically regulated at 20umol/kg wet weight and release 50umol/L into plasma per hour in a fed state. This is due to muscle being a prime location for glutamine synthesis via the enzyme glutamine synthetase. These plasma levels are typically reduced in periods of critical illness due to increased usage of glutamine as substrate in various metabolic processes.
Up to 13% of circulating glutamine tends to be redirected to the splanchnic bed to be used as energy substrate by the liver and intestinal enterocytes.
When oral or intravenous glutamine is administered, de novo synthesis rates of glutamine will decrease. This may indirectly preserve amino acids that could be generated into glutamine, such as leucine which experiences a reduction in oxidation rates.
The amount of glutamine devoted to intestinal and hepatic tissue (splanchic extraction) does not differ between food-bound sources and supplemental dosages.
Glutamine supplementation has been shown to stimulate protein synthesis in the gut of healthy humans to a similar potency as mixed amino acids.
Glutamine is investigated to aiding a 'leaky gut' as it is a regulator of intestinal tight junction barriers. Intentional depletion of intracellular glutamine and inhibition of glutamine synthesis in vitro leads to rapid increases in gut permeability. In the absence of dietary glutamine, de novo synthesis via glutamine synthetase is the main soruce of glutamine.
Glutamine has been implicated in also alleviating the increased permeability done to the gut by acetaldehyde, the metabolite of Alcohol as well as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Glutamine can alleviate the increase in permeability associated with sepsis in vivo, but not prevent it.
In an intervention study on preterm infants, it was demonstrated that glutamine supplementation at 0.3g/kg could aid in intestinal integrity and reduce the occurrence of septicemia and increase recovery; and these results have been replicated with both positive and negative results.
A study with 15g oral glutamine on critically ill patients did not find significant decreases in intestinal permeability.
At least one study has shown glutamine, in adults, to confer protection from adverse chemotherapy induced changes in intestinal permeability.
Crohn's disease is a disease characterized by increased intestinal permeability as well as an inflammatory response in the intestinal membrane.
One study using 21g oral glutamine daily in a small sample size noted that glutamine was not effective in reducing intestinal permeability associated with Crohn's Disease. A response to this study concurred with reports of a study done on children with Crohn's having the same results and hypothesized that the benefits of glutamine on the intestinal wall could be getting negated by glutamine enhancing T-cell and Nitric Oxide function, of which are adverse pathology associated with Crohn's disease. These results are supported by one study using intravenous glutamine at 0.3g/kg finding no apparent benefit.
In contrast to the null effects, a more recent study found improvements in intestinal permeability associated with both glutamine and the active control of whey protein, both at 0.5g/kg bodyweight daily for 2 months, and one intravenous study has noted improvements in intestinal permeability. It is hypothesized that this may be due to the higher dosage of glutamine used.
Glutamine has also been shown to aid in the uptake of water from the gut, potentially leading it to be a rehydration aid. However, the increase seen, when compared to other methods such as glucose or sodium is neglibible.
Glutamine has been shown to be able to 'blunt' the blood glucose spikes in response to dietary carbohydrate, attenuating rises and Cmax values of blood glucose and insulin in response to dietary carbohydrate ingestion. When investigated as to whether this is due to non-significant delays in gastric emptying, it does not appear to be the case.
Glutamine is known to be the main energy substrate used by the immune cells called leukocytes and contributes to the proliferation of these cells, the reason for glutamine being the fuel substrate for leukocytes is the need for a quicker energy source than glucose (similar to intestinal mucosa and bone marrow). Leukocytes cannot synthesize glutamine on their own, and thus are reliant on glutamine provided from other tissues that possess the glutamine synthetase enzyme, or from dietary intake.
Leukocyte growth rates are highest at a concentration of approximately 600umol/L, a concentration well within normal human physiology. For this reason glutamine and it's supplemental usage tends to be practically limited to times where synthesis or intake is suppressed or redirected, such as critical illness or prolonged cardiovascular exercise.
Plasma glutamine levels are either increased or unchanged in short term, high intensity activities and tend to be unchanged with eccentric muscle damage suggesting that extra glutamine supplementation will not benefit short term intensity exercise or weightlifting by any means which act through serum glutamine levels (such as immunosuppression or catabolism).
In contrast to this, endurance events exceeding 2 hours do tend to show decreases in serum glutamine levels. Both supplementation of glutamine and increasing protein intake from food (in the dose of 20-30g animal source protein) can alleviate this decline in serum glutamine and potentially can reduce damage to immune cells associated with prolonged cardiovascular exercise. This decrease in serum glutamine levels may also suppress release of interleukin-6 (IL-6) from muscle tissue, and supplementation of glutamine can preserve IL-6 levels.
Supplementation with glutamine during longer duration cardiovascular exercise, via decreasing ammonia, has also been noted to increase performance. The decrease in ammonia per se is also seen as desirable.
An oral load of 2g glutamine has been shown to increase plasma bicarbonate levels in vivo. This has been shown to not affect high intensity exercise to any noticeable degree, whether it aids in endurance events or not is not known.
By attenuating or otherwise preventing glutamine depletion in exericse lasting for more than one hour, performance may indirectly increase relative to the glutamine depleted state. This is not so much performance 'enhancement' as it is performance 'preservation'
Glutamine is an amino acid intimately linked in vitro with muscle homeostasis and muscle protein synthesis, in which a surplus causes anabolism and prevents breakdown while a deficit causes catabolism. This correlation has been seen in vivo and appears to be specific for glutamine. That being said, this relationship has sometimes not been recorded in vivo.
Additionally, glutamine appears to have the ability to reduce leucine oxidation and increase leucine deposition (which can directly increase protein synthesis).
Despite the above mechanisms, there is no evidence to suggest that supplemental glutamine increase protein synthesis in healthy and fed individuals. It does not increase power output at doses near 0.3g/kg bodyweight.
Either doses of glutamine used in the few human studies are too subpar to show results, or the ability of glutamine to increase protein synthesis requires a metabolic trauma or sickness as a pre-requisite. Glutamine has not yet been shown to be anabolic when supplemented in other-wise well fed and active persons
Glutamine ingestion, at 0.5g/kg daily, has been shown in a small study on hypercortisolemic patients (induced be prednisone at a dose to induce muscle protein breakdown) noted less of a catabolic state via reducing essential amino acid conversion into glutamine, and less of a leucine expenditure.
There is some evidence that oral glutamine can increase glycogen replishment rates when consumed alongside carbohydrates but more studies are needed to see whether this method holds benefit over food sources of glutamine or holds true with higher carbohydrate intakes.
Glutamine itself, in the absence of carbohydrates, may enhance muscle glycogen stores.
In the critically ill (hospitalized) glutamine has an elevated importance. Demand for glutamine is increased in the kidneys, immune cells, and the intestinal mucosa during these periods in response to cachexia, infection, and trauma. It is common, however, for glutamine need during these states to exceed the capacity of skeletal muscle to synthesis glutamine; this results in a reduction of the free (intra-cellular) glutamine pool in the body. With this reduction in glutamine comes a reduction in protein economy and alterations in metabolism (increase in protein catabolism, decreased levels of enzymes and hormones using glutamine as a building block). Due to these reasons, one of the main interventions for glutamine is rehabilitative and in response to sickness rather than merely preventative.
Due to the ubiquitous nature of glutamine in the body, bodily stores of glutamine are depleted in an attempt to counter the increased metabolic activity typical of critical illness. Since skeletal muscle is largely glutamine it is at a higher risk for catabolism during periods of illness. Supplementing with glutamine in the critically ill alleviates the decline in muscle mass significantly, although it does not necessarily prolong life or survivial outcomes.
Glutathione, an anti-oxidant enzyme that is created from glutamine, also is decreased in situations of critical illness and trauma. As provision of glutamine becomes the rate-limiting step, administration of 0.5g/kg bodyweight glutamine intravenously increases glutathione levels in this population.
The Observed Safety Limit of glutamine supplementation, of which is the highest amount one can take and be assured of no side effects, has been suggested as being 14g/d in supplemental form (above food intake). Higher levels than this have been tested and well tolerated, but there is not enough evidence to suggest that higher doses are completely free from harm over a lifetime of supplementation nor enough evidence to assume harm exists. Limited evidence suggests that 50-60g for a period of a few weeks is not associated with significant adverse effects.
Acutely, doses of around 0.75g/kg bodyweight have been implicated in increasing plasma ammonia levels above the tolerated safety limit. A study in elderly persons (69+/-8.8 years) with 0.5g/kg oral glutamine has shown no effects on plasma ammonia levels, but was associated with an increase in serum urea and creatinine that was deemed not clinically relevant. A transient decrease in the kidney's glomerular filtration rate was seen.
(Common misspellings for Glutamine include glutamin, gltamine, glutamines, )
(Common phrases used by users for this page include muscle wasting increases plasma glutamine level, muscle in defense lightfoot, glutamine no real benefit, glutamine energy substrate of immune cells, glutamime elderly, Glutamine Benefits)